iceman's excellent new appliance adventure
Posted 31 December 2005 - 06:44 PM
A few days ago I, your humble servant, was sent on a quest to seek out the ultimate in dishwasher technology. I have kept a journal of the adventure which I share here in abbreviated form for the edification of your readers. The principles employed are easily transferable to other appliances in most cases.
For the uninitiated, the blue bold text below contains clickable links.
I divided the task into four phases: Gather knowledge, determine brand, select model, negotiate best price. I cannot share the secrets of the last phase, as they are part of our clan heritage and I would be honor-bound to slice open my belly and spill my steaming…well, you know.
1) Samurai's repair versus buy decision algorithm
2) Samurai's appliance half life table
3) Samurai's brand identification table
4) Samurai's Sears model number decoder table
5) Appliance 411 Sears Decoder Table
6) Samurai's brand recommendations
Based on the data above, for dishwashers, I distilled the following pearls:
-Time to buy a new one (the new spray arm for existing was $123.27, age=14)
-Get a Frigidaire (real quiet) or Maytag
-No electronic controls
To my disappointment, I learned that most dishwasher manufacturers only offer the push-button/timer (e.g. no electronic control board) versions in their low-end models. I selected a Frigidaire model FDB750RC the met the requisite parameters above. The unit in question was being cleared by Sears at a ridiculously low price and all seemed well, until I did some more digging:
Epinions had some danger signals mixed in with the good reviews: Also, one reviewer said the unit was bottom-rated in a consumer review magazine.
I then looked up the Consumer Reports article on dishwashers from March 2005 (Page 34) and discovered that this model was rated 40th out of 40 models. According to CR, the problem was it did not wash well. No wonder Sears was clearing it out!
Based on the Consumer Reports article, I decided to accept electronic control boards. I then used that and the Samurai's brand recommendations to narrow the field to five choices in order of price:
Kenmore 665.16052402 Sears 223 616 052
Maytag MDB8751AWW Sears 223 697 592
Amana ADB3500AWW Sears 223 696 532
Maytag MDB7601AWW Sears 223 697 562
Maytag MDB6601AWW Sears 223 697 552
You can generate a very instructive feature comparison table for these models here.
I recommended MDB7601AWW to the principle operator, however she insisted on a stainless tub which meant going to MDB8751AWW. Other than the stainless tub, the more expensive MDB8751AWW actually has fewer features than the MDB7601AWW - go figure! According to Consumer Reports a plastic tub will usually outlast the dishwasher. However, they do yellow over time.
We ended up going with the Amana because the cutlery rack absolutely positively had to be in the door. Apparently, according to her girlfriends who have it, this is a very important feature due to accessibility and cleaning performance - who knew?
Other things to consider:
The Kenmore (Whirlpool) was the only one with stainless spray arms but the cutlery rack in the door holds much fewer items than the Amana. Also it has a "turbo wash zone" (four special spray heads in the bottom rack at the back) which Consumer Reports lauds in their article as a good and innovative feature. However, none of the Kenmore Elites have an econo cycle. The one in the comparison chart is also quite a bit noisier than the Amana (on the Sears noise scale), and it appears to be an energy hog (456KWH vs 346KWH on the Amana/Maytags). Some of the KitchenAids also have the turbo wash zone feature (so Sears Elites must be based on KitchenÁid). I think this feature is a gimmick becuase you have to turn your casserole away from the main wash action, and these spray heads do not move. Also they steal pressure from the spray arm when operated.
A more cautious buyer might prefer MDB6601AWW over MDB7601AWW as it is almost identical, but the buttons are on the outside instead of hidden along the top of the door. Apparently buttons hidden on the top of the door are problematic because when the cheap plastic overlay develops cracks (and it will - trust me) then it is much easier for water to leak into the electronics when you open the moist dishwasher and steam escapes. Also, neither the Kenmore above (Whirlpool), nor the Amana have a minutes-til-done display, while all the Maytags do.
Finally, according to one salesman, Amana has much fewer problems than Maytag. In his words "The difference is so striking you would almost think they were made by two different companies, even though they are both made by Maytag". In the Consumer Reports article, Amana and Maytag are rated the same for Brand repair history (@10%)
-After completing the purchase, I found this article on Fixitnow, cautioning on Maytag and blessing Whirlpool, this is also borne out in the Consumer Reports "Brand repair history" side bar in the March 2005 dishwasher article, with the exception of KitchenAid (@13%), a Whirlpool brand (@7%) which was rated as less reliable than Maytag/Amana (@10%). Samurai adds his comments on KitchenAid here and shares a KitchenAid pump repair secret here.
-Kudos to Pegi for this delightful distraction.
-A Haiku honorable Samurai, should you ever decide to revive the most excellent Haiku Page.
[align=center]Seek Samurai for wisdom
[align=center]Also check CR![/align]
Posted 02 January 2006 - 06:09 PM
Were you aware that Amana is a Maytag brand?
Posted 02 January 2006 - 07:28 PM
Thank-you for your salutorious accolade. I was aware of this, being a student of the master's wisdom. In fact, I was loath to purchase any dishwasher brand other than Maytag or Frigidaire because of that same satori.
However even the great Samurai himself, as I am sure you are well aware, reserves the right to change his mind. For example, on dishwasher brand recommendations.
As you can see I am a devoted, some would say obsessive, disciple of the master's teachings. Which brings me to a point that I was discussing with the master himself, via the prophet Pegi, earlier today. I was hoping to find a way to search this wondrous tomb of teachings by author so that I could, electronically at least, spend more time at his feet, learning from the master's word. Alas, I am afraid I distracted him by including website feedback in the same communication. As you may also know, the Master is as concerned with this great website and its comportment as I am with his teachings. I am of course honored that he appreciated my input Moostafa, please do not mis-interpret my sentiments. As the master says "it takes real beer, and lots of it, to run a website this messed up", no doubt he was participating in the sacrament at the time.
Should you run into the master, please could you remind him of my search-by-author question? Also, I would dearly love the see the posts related to the Haiku on clothing pheromone impregnation restored. Those were truly funny. I wish I had saved them now.
Posted 02 January 2006 - 07:51 PM
You may view a listing of the Samurai's posts here:
Posted 03 January 2006 - 12:05 AM
Thank-you for this pearl of enlightenment. I see how it is done now.
Posted 04 January 2006 - 08:08 PM
If I go to the local appliance sales store I can spend $1000 on a Kitchenaid D/W with stainless steel tub or I can spend $500 on a Whirpool with a plastic tub that has most of the same mechanical parts and will last just as long. Most consumers are not aware of this important aspect of an appliance when purchasing and so they rely on differences in features and asthetics. If I were to supply my family with a new D/W it would have to be a Miele, no question. These units follow the same pattern as North American designs in terms of comparing the least expensive to the most expensive in that the mechanical differences are nil but the options change greatly from one model to the next. But that is where the similarity ends. The last company I worked for attributed Miele as their number one selling dishwasher with Maytag a distant second and we still had more complaints with the Maytag units. The company designs and manufactures most if not all of its own parts in Germany and their warranty is exceptional. I have talked to many customers that have had their unit for 15 years or more with minimal problems and today's D/W is showing the same reliability. Obviously quality comes with a price and there not exactly giving these away but a Miele D/W is comparable to a Kitchenaid or a Bosch. The average price comes in at around $1500 (thats Canadian currency by the way). I could go on but I have two compressor jobs in the morning, one Maytag and one Kitchenaid SxS and I need my beauty sleep.
Posted 05 January 2006 - 07:45 PM
Fair enough. However, if you happend to get a Miele with a lower half life I am kinda guessing the parts are pretty dang expensive, coming from the land of BMWs and all.
Regarding the stainless tub, I totally hear you. I would not ever recommend a stainless tub, it is a ridiculous indulgence, and I laugh on the lapels of those who fall for it! As I mention in the article above, Consumer Reports says a plastic tub will outlast most dishwashers.
On the other hand, my other half is not a cold calcluating pragmatic engineer, and I take responsibility for making two fatal errors during the procurement process:
1) Presented options with a recommendation.
2) Allowed interaction between my spouse and diswasher sales associates,
What the heck was I thinkin' !?
On the serious side though, my baby has to look at the inside of that dishwasher three times a day, and if she thinks yellowed plastic looks like crap, I am prepared to cough up the $250 or so it takes to remove that element of unhappiness from her life. After all, another 20 summers or so and that is it. We're outta here.
Posted 25 January 2006 - 05:47 PM
P.S. i reinstalled the builtin oven :P and gave up the icemaker (no filters to by ) because i figured after 10yrs of buying filters and replacements parts for the icemaker alone that would have paid for the unit more than twice. also by having mid to low end gear i won`t feel as bad if i have to replace it as opposed having to wait for parts on the hi end stuff.
Currently serving EVERYTHING
Posted 03 February 2006 - 08:39 AM
You make some excellent points. As the honorable Samurai has instructed us, dishwasher soap is CRUCIAL. May I also humbly suggest the excellent article on this very subject on Page 39 of the March 2005 Consumer Reports entitled "Enzymes Rule".
This article recommends two products as the best bet:
1) Wal-Mart "Great Value" Powder (also a CR best buy!)
2) Electrasol dual action tabs (not as good in hard water)
Regarding water filters, I looked into this extensively and in the end I bought a standard size sump from Sears for $19.00 and once a year I put a $40.00 filter into it. It feeds only the fridge. I bypass the filter in the fridge. Here is what I learned about filters:
1) Buy a standard size sump. Otherwise you are locked in to buying one manufacturer's cartridge, thus reducing your competitive advantage on filter pricing.
2) Reverse osmosis is very slow, the resulting water is slightly alkaline and damages copper tubing, so you gotta use plastic. You will also need to periodically replace the coil in your fridge! The water in your RO holding tank is not chlorinated, so algae grows in there. (Why did you think they had a carbon polishing filter after the tank bucko?). Finally, you pour 2-3 gallons of water down the drain for every gallon you harvest with an RO system.
3) In most cities, a single stage MTBE carbon filter is the most you need. In my city, you don't even need that, but for $40.00 I put it in anyways.
Finally, the dishwasher arrived, and here is my experience so far:
Install: No problems, however the tall tub design makes it very hard to adjust the height once it is in place, you cannot get your hand under the motor/tub. I could not adjust the height outside because my counter has a lip, so I made a special tool to do it using a wrench and "the claw".
Manufacturing Quality Control: I am less than impressed. Some of the noise deadening asphalt strips were mal-applied and had fallen off. One of the cutlery baskets was partially injection molded, and had a hole in the bottom as a result.
Noise: Not bad, but not as good as advertised.
Cleaning Performance: Not as good as my old Maytag (longer cycle, still not as clean), but a lot quieter.
Design Quality: The LEDs are tiny surface mount devices, hard to see in daylight, and are mis-aligned with the faceplate holes. There is no countdown timer available on any of the Amanas, and now I think I would like one. I would have to sacrifice the in-door cutlery baskets to get it. The door latch is wimpy and can be forced open (probably a safety feature, but the design is really crappy). The tall tub feature is good. The in door cutlery basket feature is very handy, a must have in my opinion now that I have used it. There is no fan to circulate the air during drying like on my old Maytag. The result is heavy condensate on the dishwasher walls ever when using heated dry. All for the savings of a $2.00 fan. Way to go Maytag, really imaginative cost reduction. Looks like you guys have brought Part Changing Monkeys on in the design department too!
Warranty: Sears told me it was two years because it was purchased in 2005 (Dec 31 heh-heh). The documentation says 1 year. Sears is standing behind the two years, and will even stand behind 5 if I have documentation to prove it (hint).
IMPORTANT Sears is doing a major revision to all major appliance warranty policies in 2006. This is most likely precipitated by the Whirlpool acquisition.
Posted 04 February 2006 - 09:46 AM
I would add this...
The more I know about the subject, the more I do NOT agree with Consumer Reports.
They have given their blessing to some real piles of stinking dung. I would view their opinions as being suspect. I don't like the way they test some things, and I don't like their evaluation methods/reasonings. I would only look at their facts (data), and ignore their opinions.
I would stick with Cascade detergent
Posted 08 February 2006 - 05:00 PM
Posted 09 February 2006 - 08:38 AM
Posted 11 February 2006 - 04:20 PM
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